Winter’s Last Moon

March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am (Big Bend National Park TX) (, , , , )

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Composite of the “Super Moon” rising March 19, 2011

It’s the first day of Spring. 

It was 102 degrees in Castolon yesterday, in the park’s southwest end, ushering out the last day of winter at Big Bend National Park.  The moonrise was much-heralded as the largest perigee moon in 18 years, because it was closer to the earth. (The moon orbits the earth in an ellipse, the farthest point being the apogee.) I watched it rise from behind the Deadhorse Mountains, along with other folks who had come to hear moon lore from one of our rangers.   

Moonrise framed by ocotillo

First the clouds glowed just a little, then more intensely as we waited for the first glimmer of the moon itself.  Coyotes sang in the far distance for a few delightful seconds.  Through binoculars I watched the moon’s rim peep over the mountains, and within a minute or two it had presented itself in entirety.  The evening was warm, and Jupiter had already popped out through orange sunset clouds in the west.  Sirius, then Orion’s Belt and other constellations appeared as the sky darkened.  The moon rose through thin layers of clouds until it was bright enough for me to walk in the desert without running into cactus or ocotillo. 

Yeah it’s a manipulated photo, but it’s art, right?

I wouldn’t say it was a moon larger than any I’d seen before.  I’ve seen many that blew me away by their apparent gigantic juxtaposition with the horizon, perhaps distorted by atmospherics.  But it was a combination of good weather, good scenery, and good people that made it memorable.  The ranger said we could all howl at the moon.  I wonder what the coyotes thought.

Popped a flash on the ocotillo with moon in center



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